Mathematical Bon Mots

Over the years, I’ve collected quotes of mathematicians and others about mathematics. In no particular order, here are some of my favorites:

It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well. Rene Descartes

Mathematics knows no races or geographic boundaries; for mathematics, the cultural world is one country. David Hilbert

The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics. Johannes Kepler

A man is like a fraction whose numerator is what he is, and whose denominator is what he thinks of himself. The larger the denominator, the smaller the fraction. Leo Tolstoy

The mathematical sciences particularly exhibit order, symmetry, and limitation; and these are the greatest forms of the beautiful. Aristotle

A thorough advocate in a just cause, a penetrating mathematician facing the starry heavens, both alike bear the semblance of divinity. Goethe

I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space. William Shakespeare

The more I see of men, the better I like my dog. Blaise Pascal

In mathematics you don’t understand things. You just get used to them. Johann von Neumann

The simplest schoolboy is now familiar with facts for which Archimedes would have sacrificed his life. Ernest Renan

One merit of mathematics few will deny: it says more in fewer words than any other science. The formula, expressed a world of thought, of truth, of poetry, and of the religious spirit, “God eternally geometrizes.” David E. Smith

Sex is the mathematics urge sublimated. M. C. Reed


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